By Tony Fitzpatrick
A team of biomedical engineers at Washington University in St. Louis, led by Lihong Wang, PhD, the Gene K. Beare Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering, has developed the world’s fastest receive-only 2-D camera, a device that can capture events up to 100 billion frames per second.
That’s orders of magnitude faster than any current receive-only ultrafast imaging techniques, which are limited by on-chip storage and electronic readout speed to operations of about 10 million frames per second.
Using a technique developed at the School of Engineering & Applied Science called compressed ultrafast photography (CUP), Wang and his colleagues have made movies of the images they took with single laser shots of four physical phenomena: laser pulse reflection, refraction, faster-than light propagation of what is called non-information, and photon racing in two media. While it’s no day at the races, the images are entertaining, awe-inspiring and represent the opening of new vistas of scientific exploration.
The research appears in the Dec. 4, 2014, issue of Nature.
“For the first time, humans can see light pulses on the fly,” Wang said. “Because this technique advances the imaging frame rate by orders of magnitude, we now enter a new regime to open up new visions. Each new technique, especially one of a quantum leap forward, is always followed a number of new discoveries. It’s our hope that CUP will enable new discoveries in science — ones that we can’t even anticipate yet.”
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